Sunday, May 15, 2005

Duke Graduation: A good time!

Actually had fun at Duke's graduation ceremony.

Speakers were good, day was neither too hot nor rainy, and there were some surprises.

1. Started with the Star Spangled Banner. I had been late getting into line, and so I was seated among the physical science faculty (bio, physics, chem, etc). They all SANG, loudly, to the national anthem. Quite a refreshing change from the social science faculty, where I usually sit. It would be even moreso a change from the Lit/English/Cult Anthro folks, who mutter to themselves about tyranny and jingoism if they even see a flag. Of course, the Lit/English/etc faculty would never actually show up to graduation. I was having a discussion with a famous member of our Lit facult two years ago, and talking about teaching. She snorted and said, "People in my department almost never teach; we are all much too famous." Of course, she is a big fan of "the people," but doesn't like individual people (like, for example, students) very much.

2. President Brodhead was introducing one of the honorary degree recipients, Roald Hoffman, and was reading from a prepared text that compared poetry and science. He quoted Hoffman, something like, "If poets can write about lumberjacks, then scientists can write poetry." Then Brodhead looked down and murmured, but into the microphone, "Hmmm...I wonder which poet he had in mind?" Maybe this one? Dick is a very funny guy, and much more low key than Nan. Nan had the whole regal thing down very well. She was smooth. Dick Brodhead appears to think of himself in a much more down-to-earth way. (To be fair, Nan was perfectly down-to-earth personally. When she thought her role called for it, she became queen. And that is a perfectly legit way to present oneself as President. Dick is more of the chief-jester-in-charge. I can't say one is better than the other, but boy are they different).

3. At the Poli Sci diploma presentation, I mispronounced a record number of names. We have way more grads than ever before, and there were 800 people at just the Poli Sci ceremony, with 150 grads and 650 proud papas and mamas and bored sibs. The University does not give us nearly enough money to pay for this shindig, so it is a big money loser. But it is darned fun, I have to say. Reminds you of why you became a professor. All of those grads take a little piece of you, your classes, and Duke, with them for the rest of their lives. 150 stories we don't know the end of yet.

(If you didn't click on the lumberjack song above, do it now. You'll be sorry else.)